Probe finds NIS targeted liberals for many years

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Probe finds NIS targeted liberals for many years

The country’s main spy agency created a blacklist of artists and cultural figures and used it to oppress them during the Lee Myung-bak administration, an internal probe by the intelligence agency has shown.

The reform committee of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) announced Monday the agency operated a “task force to handle leftist celebrities” during the Lee administration.

Shortly after President Moon Jae-in took office in May, the NIS created a committee to investigate its own domestic political interference as part of a campaign to clean up its act. Thirteen particular cases were selected in July for internal probes, and all of them occurred during the tenures of the last two conservative presidents, Lee and Park Geun-hye.

According to the committee, the NIS created the anti-progressive taskforce in July 2009 under the leadership of Won Sei-hoon, who headed the NIS from 2009 to 2013.

Kim Ju-seong, then head of the planning division, was in charge of the operation against artists and cultural leaders. The blacklist contained 82 artists, according to the probe. Novelists such as Lee Oi-soo and Jo Jung-rae, and film directors such as Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho were among those on the list.

Actors and singers such as Moon Sung-keun, Kim Mi-hwa, Kim Je-dong and Yoon Do-hyun, known for their liberal views, were also on the list. Broadcasters were forced to shut down programs hosted by the artists and tax probes were conducted against their agencies, the internal probe concluded. The probe also showed that the Park administration was not the first to create and operate a cultural blacklist.Top officials of the Park administration, including former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, have already been convicted of abuse of power.

According to the NIS, the Lee Blue House reportedly made direct orders to root out artists critical of the administration. The Blue House also received briefings on the progress of the anti-progressive campaign. Speculation grew that former Lee Blue House officials would be investigated over the blacklist scandal, as the NIS asked the prosecution to launch a criminal investigation. The reform committee also confirmed that it discovered two documents showing the agency’s campaign against Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

The NIS conducted operations to slander Park in 2009 and 2010 before Park was elected to the post. Park, formerly a lawyer and head of a charity organization, was elected Seoul Mayor in the October 2011 by-election.

According to the committee, Won received briefings on NIS operations against Park. The committee asked the prosecution to investigate Kim for abuse of power. It also asked the prosecution to launch a formal investigation into Won for violating the law governing the agency, which prohibits its members from meddling in domestic politics. This is the first time the committee asked the prosecution to probe Won. Won was already convicted for running political operations to help Park win the 2012 presidential election. He was found guilty of running an online smear campaign against Moon, Park’s main rival in the 2012 presidential election. Park won by a slim margin, triggering questions about the fairness of the outcome.

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